Sunday, April 13, 2014

Answer Me This....Random, Cold, and Three

Linking up with Kendra for Answer Me This!

What time do you prefer to go to Mass?

Um, whatever random time works that particular week. With my husband being a Lutheran pastor getting to church is, um, interesting. When I was single I attended the 5:00pm Life Teen Mass at my home church in Georgia (I promise it wasn't nearly as liberal as some traditional Catholics perceive all LT Masses to be). Later I didn't attend Mass after I got married because of some immature spiritual searching wherein I was sorta kinda Lutheran for a bit. When I cam running back to the Catholic church for real when we moved to West Virginia we attended Saturday 5pm Mass an hour away....the nearest Catholic church to our house and that worked well. Kyle only had one worship service to do on Sunday mornings and we had one toddler so I did Catholic Mass Saturdays and Lutheran Service Sundays. 

When we moved here suddenly Kyle had 2 worship services every week plus 3 every other week and youth retreats. So Saturdays only worked once a month on average. Thankfully the cathedral I'm a member at has a 5pm Sunday Mass. So right now I switch between Saturdays at 5pm and Sundays at 5pm with the occasional brave solo foray into the 10am Sunday Mass at my friends' parish. We also once visited a Byzantine Catholic Church and a Traditional Latin Mass...both are nice but 1 hour away, which seems like a lot when I can see the cathedral from my house. So right now I suppose I'm a church hopper. And I was attending 10:15am Sunday service at Kyle's church until a few months ago when I just quit going. The stress of wrangling 4 kids in the pews alone (ages 1, 3, 5, and a 12 year old who is mentally like a 6-8 year old depending on the situation) was just too much, especially when I also had to parent solo from 6am that morning until either 1pm or 9pm that night depending on the day. 

I'd feel guilty if I didn't feel so darn relaxed :)

Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Too cold! Even with all my complaining about this winter I really do prefer cold to hot. I get migraines more often when it's hot and I am also prone to car sickness in the heat ever since I got pregnant with Tobias. Plus the clothes are just so much better in the fall and winter!

How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?

I have one sister, one brother, and one stepsister living. I have one brother who died before I was born from SIDS so I never met him. My sister and I are 18 months apart and have always been really close even though we are opposites on everything. She's been living it up in L.A. for 2 years now, I think? Maybe 3 now?? I forget.  My brother is 8 years younger than me and is in the military stationed in Hawaii at the moment. My stepsister only moved in when I was 18 so we don't know each other quite as well but we get along well, both being oldest-children in the families we grew up in. She lives in Georgia with her husband and their two puppies. 

If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn into?

I'm with Kendra, mine would probably be the same as Molly Weasley's. 

Secondarily, an eviction notice. I'm petrified of being homeless. My husband keeps telling me that's an irrational fear but after you actually have been homeless, even if only for a couple weeks, it just never seems that far-fetched that it could happen. Buying our own home has really helped ease this anxiety for me. Especially since our home automatically has lots of equity so if we needed to move we could buy again much more easily.  Kyle and I confessed to each other a month ago that our house is actually more dear to us than our cats! And that's saying a lot. I adore my home more than I could possibly express. 

Barbie: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs up....but don't tell my husband, who is far more feminist than I am! I remember playing with barbies growing up and I never actually thought women were supposed to look like that! Have you seen the crazy creepy baby dolls out there? Some of the best ones look nothing like a real baby, they just look like a cute doll. Same with Barbies, they're just a good standardized doll for older girls. They're nice because you know if you buy Barbie brand clothes they will fit the doll. You don't need a whole new set of toys to add another character to your pretend play. So yes, my girls will have Barbies...though I might draw a bathing suit on it with sharpie because I've seen boys giggle over naked Barbies too many times.

If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Favorite Resources for Special Needs Homeschooling

I've been a bit slow on the blogging lately, mostly because I'm up to my eyeballs in homeschooling. Daisy requires a whole lot more attention and instruction than Tobias, partly because she's older and therefore has more work, but mostly because she has extra learning needs and is too far behind to allow any slacking on my part. 

So since all I've been doing these days is researching dyslexia, dyscalculia, deaf education, adoptive education, and general learning disabilities that's what I'll share today! So here are my 7 Favorite Resources for Homeschooling with Learning Disabilities. 


For Dyslexia: Orton-gillingham instructionThis instructional method leaves nothing for the student to intuitively grasp. Most neuro-typical children intuitively grasp certain aspects of language, specifically the idea that words are made up of sounds. For example, if you ask a preschooler what rhymes with DOG they would say "LOG!". They have a blast with rhyming games! And if you ask a new Kindergartener what the word APPLE begins with they can tell you "Ahhhh". A dyslexic child though? Not so much. Those skills are called Phonemic Awareness and dyslexic kids just don't got 'em. O-G methods teach phonemic awareness explicitly....and everything else that makes up words explicitly. Today Daisy and I went through identifying phrases. Not even "verb phrases" or "clauses"....just "A dog" and "ran". She needs very explicit instruction in this stuff. Once taught she understands it but without being explicitly taught she will never get it, as evidenced by the fact that after 7 years in school she still didn't could not read beyond a 1st grade level. 

Specifically, we are using the Barton Reading and Spelling curriculum with Daisy. It's pricey but proven to work with older students (Daisy is in 5th grade but should be in 6th) who have serious reading delays (I think being 5 years behind counts for that). There are lots of other Orton-Gillingham methods but this one is open-and-go and I knew it worked for other people in similar situations so we sucked it up, bought it, and so far it's been tremendously helpful. We're a third of the way through Level Two currently. 


Multi-sensory Materials! With a special needs student I find myself confiscating things from around the house to act as concrete examples or counting objects or whatever. Popsicle sticks, flat marbles, stacks of pencils, flashcards, sand trays, cuisenaire rods, linking cubes, pattern blocks, puzzles. You name it, I've got it and used it with Daisy. I've always liked using hands-on instruction for 0-5 year olds but now I see how much it really accomplishes. Tobias had no math instruction beyond access to said manipulatives, candy land, and a few sessions of counting as we go up the steps or stack blocks from 0-5 years old and was able to start with Singapore 1A right off the bat. Daisy had no such background and we're making up for it with lots of games. The current focus is on recognizing dot patterns, as in dice to help her visualize and group numbers in her head. I also have my eye on this Place Value Flip Stand and this Complete Number Card Set for teaching place value and number sense. Look up Montessori stuff if you need ideas, she is the original queen of multi-sensory instruction.


Support. Support. Support. If you are teaching a child with extra needs beyond the norm do not try to do it in a vacuum! Reach out to any and every forum, group, class, or tutor you can find that is within your means. If you're an introvert with limited funds like me, then online forums are vital resources for you. These people 'get' what you're dealing with and have been there before. They can often talk you off the ledge, remind you you're not failing your child, and point you to that perfect curriculum that finally makes things click. My favorite forum is the Well-Trained Mind Learning Challenges Board


For Dyscalculia or serious Math Problems: Ronit Bird's Math Books. These are not open-and-go, a huge flaw to them in the mind of this busy mom-of-four. Nevertheless, they are sound instruction geared towards students with serious math delays. I also think they would be fantastic with young students (ages 4-7) who might be struggling just a little and need some background work on number sense. 


Calendar Time. Calendar time is great for all young kids (2-8 years old) but can be excellent for older kids too! If your child has autism or another more behavioral/relational struggle then consciously taking time to take note of the time of day, day of the week, month, year, whether it's a holiday or feast day or birthday, and what the weather is like can help them in relating to the world around them. For them you might make a focus on recognizing birthdays and holidays....intentionally focusing on others!  For Daisy, whose strengths are social but whose weaknesses relate to order, time, and language expression, calendar time is when we focus on days in relation to each other, the passage of time, and expressing answers in complete sentences. I also do a number-of-the-day worksheet with her to aid her number sense. Heck, you can fit whatever you want into calendar time! My 5 year old loves space so for awhile we changed phases of the moon cards to match the current phase. 


Inspiration.  I think staying inspired and continuing to look towards the big picture are vital, especially when you're in the trenches of remedial phonics or re-doing an entire year of math. An inspired teacher has vision and joy and we all need that as homeschooling parents. Here are some of my favorite sources of inspiration: 

Circe Institute - under their Resources page you'll see videos and free audio and a few paid audio for download. These talks keep me going on the tough days. In the morning I put one on my iPhone, set my iPhone in a glass (this magnifies the sound conveniently....try it, it's fun!) and listen to it as I shower and get ready for the day. This is for ANY homeschooling parent, not focused on special needs, just focused on educating the whole child in truth, goodness, and beauty. 

Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child - if you have a child with any learning disabilities and want them to love literature and have a desire for and education in the good, the true, and the beautiful then you MUST read this book. 

Amongst Lovely Things -  Again, a classically minded resource. Sarah is a Catholic homeschooling mom of 6, including twins! So whenever I feel overwhelmed by trying to provide a beautiful education to my 4 I just pop over to her lovely, peaceful looking blog and read up a bit. 

Church - because sometimes the thing you really need is not another human hand helping you along, or a human voice speaking truth....sometimes (many times) you need to hear the One voice that really speaks through all of us directly. I wish our area had more opportunities for adoration because I'd love to start that but alas we don't. If your area does though that would be a great time to get away from the books and materials and focus on what's really important. If not, do what I do and spend a little time in prayer at home, pick up your rosary, or attend an additional Mass.


Patience and Humor. See how I snuck another one in there, I'm a tricksy hobbit like that ;) Seriously though, you need patience for homeschooling a special needs child. But if you're like me God was a little stingy when it came time to dole out patience the day you were born. So humor can be a good addition to your reportoire. For example:

What math class looks like in our home....

What having four kids is really like....

And if that doesn't work, just take yourself on over to I Can Haz Cheezburger

For more 7 Quick Takes (not 7 Incredibly LOOOOOOONGGGG Takes, like mine was) check out Jen from the Conversion Diary

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

House Updates in Spring

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been slacking on updating home pictures lately! So here are a few updates: 

In the living room we finally ditched the old couches. One was a tan Ikea Ektorp that was stained, ripped, and hard as a rock to sit on. The other was a sofa-sleeper we were given for free by another seminary student who was moving. We recovered the 1970s orange plaid with a $50 cover from Target and called it good. 

Yes, our green couch was a college student castoff. And we had it in our living room for 5 years. 

Needless to say it was time for real furniture. 

We got this super comfy gray sectional from Value City Furniture, the same place we got our dining room table. 

Those orange chevron pillows will be going ASAP. I'm planning to sew some new covers for them, probably in a light blue color. 

Our other update is small. I felt it was time for Tahlia to get to use her quilt and to make more room for play in her bedroom. 

I took down her quilt and moved the crib over to the corner. 

That left the corner under her tree free for her dollhouse and a cozy spot to play. 

Tahlia approves :) She had fun exploring her bedroom and kept going from the stuffed animals to the dollhouse to the bookshelf. 

I can't believe how big she's getting! And she's so incredibly girly! Everything about her is so different from my boys, both in good and bad ways. Luckily that adorable ponytail makes up for the girlish shrieking she's gotten good at :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Stormy Bathroom Update

We've been picking away at house projects this winter and now that it's finally bright enough outside I can share some pictures! 

We painted the bathroom downstairs: the color is Stormy Weather from Olympic, a warm dark gray. 

Kyle also got up new towel hooks. He painted a long piece of wood trim off-white to match the door and the hooks are matte black to match the door's hardware and light fixtures in our home. We used to have just a plain wood towel bar here and it just wasn't cutting it for storage! We had space for two towels and now we can fit five (4 on this wall and 1 by the shower curtain)! 

You can see I got new towels too. I found these in the clearance section at Target! Gotta love their end cap sales! 

So that's our bathroom now! I'm hoping to add a couple baskets for storage and something on the wall behind the toilet (shelves? artwork?) later. But for now I'm really loving the absence of builder-beige in here! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hopping on the Crazy (Chicken) Train

Ever since we moved in here 1.5 years ago we've been dreaming of what we can do with our very own yard. This is no parsonage like in West Virginia where we have to ask permission to sneeze. And it's not the pitiful front porch we had in our first rental in Pennsylvania. It's a real live yard with grass and space and it's all ours!! We can do pretty much whatever we want (so long as it's legal) to our yard, ha! 

So of course chickens were one of the first things on our minds! Someday we want goats and a couple horses and chickens...but apparently the city frowns on actual livestock in 53' x 120' lots. Fortunately chickens don't count as livestock and even roosters are technically allowed though we would never subject our poor neighbors to that sort of alarm clock. Plus I hate roosters, they're mean as heck and one chased my sister and I when we were little and I never recovered from being stuck on that darn picnic table unable to get down for fear of the rooster. 

So yeah, back to the HENS we were getting.... well they're here!

Or rather, they're in the basement :)

And they already have names, which is probably a bad idea since we do fully intend to sort out the whole butchering-them-once-they're-too-old-to-lay-eggs thing eventually. But for now they're cute and yellow and fluffy and cheepy.

So here is the crew! You get points if you figure out which fictional future-characters from the same book series 3 of them are named after...







The kids are of course enamored. And I am totally utilizing this as a perfect homeschool lesson! Well, and I'm just enjoying playing with the cute chicks. Little known fact, but I raised my birds' 3 baby cockatiels back in middle school. Hand fed them every 3 hours and everything. Baby chicks are way easier, they just need some little pellets in a bowl and a well-filled and cleaned out water trough. I can totally do that!

We're hoping these little ladies grow up friendly and productive. Because we eat a lot of eggs around here with 6 people. Currently we go through about 18 eggs a week. From what I've read we should have eggs by September and should get an egg a day each. Which means we should have enough eggs for our family plus bringing a dozen to our two closest neighbors pretty regularly.

But for now they're just cute.

And loads of entertainment.

I'd promise that the blog won't become ALL CHICKENS ALL THE TIME but the truth is it very well might, at least for a time :) Maybe I could change the name to Planning On Chickens?


Yeah, I figured that might be a bit of a left turn from the current blog topics...which have no direction but at least thus far haven't included much poultry

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Easter Dresses from the Tahlia Tunic Top

In February I started shopping for our Easter outfits, because I'm a geek who plans that far ahead and because it was cold and dreary outside and I figured Easter stuff would be cheery. 

I had my eye on these two dresses for Tahlia and was settled on the floral one but when I went to order it I discovered her size was sold out already! Grr! 

So then I got an idea...which always leads my husband to smile and sigh and roll his eyes at me. Because oftentimes my ideas kind of take over the house for a bit. What can I say, when I get an idea I just sort of run with it. 

My idea is that I would sew Tahlia's Easter dress! (and mine for that matter) and that turned into matching ties for the boys.

Tahlia's dress came out so great...

that I decided to post an offer on facebook to make similar Easter dresses for my friends' little girls. 

And so our house has become inundated with little girls' Easter dresses...

Which has turned out to be a lot of fun!

All I did to make them was to use my Tahlia Tunic Top Pattern with a few tweaks. To turn it into a dress I used the back bodice pattern for the front and the back to get that high neckline I wanted. Then I cut the back in half for the buttons instead of the front. I also decided not to bother with pesky buttonholes and do a cute loop closure instead. I also lengthened the bottom of the tunic by about 2-4 inches to make it a proper dress length. For the younger girls I lengthened it less but the older girls' dresses I quickly realized needed to be longer to not need leggings or something underneath.

So I've now made 4 Easter dresses in addition to Tahlia's and I have 3 more to go.

I'm also working on this project...

Friday, March 21, 2014

My Baby Doesn't Have Down Syndrome....but She Could Have

I don't have any 7 Quick Takes today but I do have some stuff on my mind. 

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. We don't have a baby with down syndrome but we could have...

All of my pregnancies and babies thus far have been very healthy and my third was no exception. I went ridiculously overdue (2 weeks!) after many many weeks of prodromal labor. But finally at 6:45am Tahlia was here! She was beautiful with wide blue eyes. When the midwife handed her to me I looked in those blue eyes and I thought just for the tiniest moment "she looks like she has down syndrome" but then I looked again, shook off the thought, and decided I was being silly, she didn't have down syndrome. I never said anything to anyone because I thought they'd just laugh me off as being an overly anxious mom. Besides, I was tired after all! 

So we went on being a happy family of five with this beautiful, sweet baby girl. The midwife showed up for the follow-up appointment several days later and as she checked over me and Tahlia she asked questions and we proudly told her about our baby who was clearly some sort of mystical perfect third baby. We told her about a baby who never cried, who always had her funny little tongue out, and who was the best, floppiest, little snuggler in the world. 

Then she sat us down and told us that there was a very good chance it was nothing but she felt she should tell us just in case. When Tahlia was born she had thought she looked like she had down syndrome. And so had the other midwife. Neither of them had said anything because they brushed it off  after checking for hard markers on her hands (I hadn't thought anything of it when they kept going back and looking at her hands and feet). But in the car on the way home one of them said something and the other one said she had thought the same thing. 

Now if I hadn't had my own identical moment to theirs I would probably have brushed off their concerns. But I had. And I felt blood rushing in my head as it sunk in that this was a possibility. But I looked down at my sweet baby girl and knew I loved her with or without downs. 

We still had several days before our next doctor appointment so we spent a while contemplating this new possibility, holding our sweet baby girl, and (in my usual style) searching online for any and all information to either confirm or deny a diagnosis. It turns out a lot of those "perfect baby" signs of never crying, extra floppy cuddliness, and inability to keep her tongue in her mouth were common to many babies with down syndrome. I just wanted to know. Because by God if she did have down syndrome I wanted to make sure she was completely, perfectly cared for from the start in case she had any of the other conditions that can come with down syndrome (heart problems, gastrointestinal problems, etc). I looked at our possible future with a down syndrome infant, 2 year old, 5 year old....and we were all set to adopt from foster care soon too! It looked overwhelming.

We followed up with our pediatrician, who checked Tahlia over for signs of down syndrome and declared that she definitely did not have it. We were relieved but also cautious. After all, he never did do the blood test. So we watched for her early development signs. Each time she was late in a new skill it caused that little thought in the back of my mind to come forward for just a second. And she has been late in almost every single skill. She rolled late, sat up late, crawled late, walked late (just now walking at 15.5 months) and is not talking at 15.5 months so, yet again, she's late. Just a bit, never enough to need services though she came close and we even had her evaluated when she still refused to bear weight on her legs (at all!) at 10 months old. But then she just started putting some weight on them and I canceled the appointment.

It seems this little girl is intent causing her poor parents worry :)

and she still sticks her tongue out

a lot.

We know that she doesn't have down syndrome now. And you'd think we might be counting our blessings and jumping for joy. But the truth is, it didn't change much. Sure we are happy she will get to avoid the very serious health complications that can come with down syndrome. We're not naive enough to ignore those risks and to not feel fortunate that she won't have them. But as for the everyday life? I imagine it'd be much the same.

We'd coo over her bright blue eyes and marvel at how she came out blonde. We'd worry about the little milestones. We'd shout and clap and cheer whenever she did something new. We'd laugh when she made funny faces or tried to do a head stand in the living room. We'd still reprimand her when she almost erased an entire blog post (like just now!)

We'd love her. I often say Tahlia has got to be the most loved baby in the world with two doting big brothers and a big sister who loves nothing more than to carry her around and get whatever her heart could desire on top of her parents and grandparents. She never wants for anything. In fact, I fear she is getting quite spoiled :) And I have a pretty good hunch that if she did have down syndrome she'd be just as spoiled and loved and adored as she is now.

And I bet life would be a lot like it is for these kids....which honestly looks a lot like life for my kids without that extra chromosome.

Let's all honor World Down Syndrome Day by doing a little research on Down Syndrome. Because the thing I learned most during that brief time of research was that kids with down syndrome are pretty cute :) and they're also pretty much just like your kids and my kids.